Garden plopping versus garden plotting

Following a planting plan has been one of the major hurdles I’ve had in my gardening life.  I tend to visualize a specific garden plan, roughly draw it out on paper, jot down a few plant ideas, then dig in.  I rarely stick to the original design.  I often plop plants here and there as an idea pops into my head.  This design method has served me well for many years.  Yes, I’ve had to redo some areas, but my gardens generally look pretty good.  However, using this method means I rarely plot out any completed project.  Kind of explains why I forget where bulbs are planted, hey?

Now that I’m studying to be a landscape designer, my visual design methods must be usurped by the more exact process of computer aided drafting.  The AutoSketch program I’m conquering as part of this course has opened my eyes  to the beauty of this method.  Now that I’m feeling more comfortable using the program I’m beginning to visualize my ideas in CAD format. 

survey-finished The last lesson in my course involved surveying an actual property containing at least one house.  Weather, schedules, and life in general prevented me from completing this lesson as quickly as I had wanted, but in reality so did my choice to survey my own house and gardens.  The course lesson recommended choosing a small, relatively simple site, which mine is not.  Still, I figured if I could accurately survey my own property, moving on to less complicated sites in later lessons would be a piece of cake.  It was a long lesson but it’s done.  I learned how to plot stone walls, curved and straight walkways, angled and circular planting beds, large trees and small shrubs, decks, fences, woodlands, lawns, and driveways, in addition to a house.  I also learned how to slice a large drawing in half – without destroying portions of either half – so the survey can be printed on smaller sheets of paper.  All things I need to know to work in landscape design, plus I now have my own property surveyed which will come in handy for future home landscape projects.

Now that the survey lesson is under my belt, I’ve moved onto concept plans – the part that lays out existing planting and hardscape designs and ideas to alter, improve, or completely redo them.  This lesson sounds fun.  I’ll get to practice using plant, hardscape, furniture, and other symbols, do an elevation drawing, and generally make computer aided drawings more interesting from a design aspect.

In my own gardens, I’m trying to plot out – via keyboard – any existing aspects, and my ideas for changes before I commit shovel to soil.  Not only will this give me extra practice using the CAD program it will, for the first time in all these decades of gardening, give me actual plans. that document where I’ve planted what.

What a concept!  Instead of plopping, I’ll plot plants – at least those in the ground. 

8 comments for “Garden plopping versus garden plotting

  1. April 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Interesting! I am a plopper, so I know what you mean. Even when I do a crude sketch beforehand, I abandon it the minute shovel hits dirt, and go free-form. Sometimes it works, sometimes I know I could have done a much better design.

    Be sure your CAD plot includes where all those bulbs are planted!

  2. April 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Joene, I tend to plot everything out on graph paper (partly because I have such terrible spatial reasoning skills that I don’t kid myself that I can just visualize it). But even so, when I get out to actually plant, I always find myself revising the plan a bit. Once I spot those plants around in their designated places, it always look different in three dimensions than it did in two. -Jean

  3. joenesgarden
    April 15, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Laurrie, I’m doing a digital photo account of my bulbs in bloom so I don’t lose them any more.

  4. joenesgarden
    April 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Jean, I have tried graphing things out – I find it to be a good winter activity – but, like you, see things differently in three dimensions. That’s why I’m looking forward to the concept plan lessons.

  5. April 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm


    I loved your post title! I’ll bet you’ll find as you continue designing gardens that you’ll tend back to your ‘plopping’ days. No matter how much you try to plot out where each plant should go, once you get them all on site and start laying them out per your plan, you’ll be tweaking and plopping away! That’s what make designing gardens so much fun.

  6. joenesgarden
    April 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Oh I don’t expect to stop plopping, Debbie. I agree that it’s part of what makes garden designing fun. I just hope to do it with a little more advanced planning.

  7. April 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    The hubby keeps trying to convince me to learn CAD (he’s an engineer and uses it all the time) and I have been resistant thus far. After seeing the lovely survey of your garden you made, I am sorely tempted to learn so I can have one of those for my yard.

    Christine in Alaska

  8. joenesgarden
    April 16, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    It takes some time and determination, Christine, but I think its worth it.

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